Secret Harvests by David Mas Masumoto

Secret Harvests book cover

Rating: 2.5/5

What It’s About:

David Masumoto discovers a “lost” aunt, separated from our family due to racism and discrimination against the disabled. She had a mental disability due to childhood meningitis. She was taken away in 1942 when all Japanese Americans were considered the enemy and imprisoned. She then became a “ward” of the state. The Masumoto family believed she had died, but 70 years later found her alive and living a few miles from our family farm. How did she survive? Why was she kept hidden? How did both shame and resilience empower his family to
forge forward in a land that did not want them? David is haunted and driven to explore his identity and the meaning of family‚ÄĒespecially as farmers tied to the land. David uncovers family secrets that bind them to a sense of history buried in the earth that they work and a sense of place that defines them.

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The Review

Thank you to Red Hen Press and Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of Secret Harvests is what caught my attention and inspired me to request this book. In December, I read a historical fiction about the Japanese incarceration in the U.S. during World War II and it opened my eyes to a part of U.S. history that I didn’t know much about. So when I saw this book, I was excited to read a memoir that talked more about that time. I was also intrigued by the storyline of Masumoto’s aunt and was curious to see what her experience was like living in a facility for people who are disabled.

I am going to make a list of the themes that were interesting because there were so many.

  • the hardships of Japanese immigrants coming to the U.S.
  • immigrant assimilation and the loss of culture
  • Japanese incarceration camps – the loss of what Japanese farmers had worked to build the struggle to rebuild a life after being released
  • Japanese American soldiers who served during WWII
  • experiences of minority farmers and migrant workers in California
  • access to medical care and services to poor and/or minority populations
  • prejudices against people with disabilities
  • the treatment and care of patients in wards or institutions
  • exploration of family history, facing history that people want to forget, and family legacy
What I did’t like

There were still a few things about Secret Harvests that I struggled with. It felt like there were too many threads to follow throughout the book that made it feel disjointed. The focus of the story jumped around constantly. The author also asked too many rhetorical questions in the book. Many things that he wrote were repetitive. There were times I felt like was reading the same thing over and over again. Perhaps these issues could have been avoided with more editing.

If you are interested in learning more about Japanese American history during World War II, you might like these online resources:

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought!

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